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Q&A: Superchunk's Mac McCaughan dishes on his new solo record

Mac McCaughan
Oona McCaughan
Merge Records
Mac McCaughan is the singer-guitarist and songwriter with Superchunk. He worked on a solo record during the pandemic.

Mac McCaughan has spent part of the pandemic working on his second solo record.

The singer-guitarist and songwriter with “Superchunk” has been thinking about how COVID has made each day blur into the next. It prompted him to get busy at his home studio. The result is “The Sound Of Yourself” and includes help from Yo La Tengo and Torres, among other peers.

McCaughan joined WUNC for an interview recently.

This is an edited excerpt of that conversation.

How did you come to the decision to work on this record as the pandemic took hold?

"At the beginning of the pandemic, I was in the middle of making film score. And I was glad to have that because I could not write a song – one of my own songs – to save my life. It just was not where my mind was, which I think a lot of people probably share that; trying to be creative during a time where you can’t leave the house and there’s a global pandemic happening.

“But later on in the year, I started to kind of work on some songs, for maybe a new ‘Superchunk’ record. With everyone being isolated, even though we could record some things at home here and there, it became clear that a full band album wasn't about to come together. So, in January of this year, I just decided to make a solo record. And the cool thing about it was being able to collaborate with friends and peers who kind of live all over the place just sending tracks back and forth. It was kind of a nice way to connect with other musicians and of course, they made my record a lot better.”

In the title song, you explore how uncomfortable you can be with the sound of your own voice. After all these years of being the lead vocalist for "Superchunk" and now on your solo records, are you really uneasy with your own voice?

“I guess I've come to some sort of acceptance of it, since I'm still trying to sing and make records and play shows, but I think it starts for almost anyone even when you're a kid and you're playing with a tape recorder and then you hear it play back and you just think ‘That's me? I sound like that? That's terrible.’”

This was kind of a family affair, in that you recorded it at home and your kids contributed some photos to the artwork. Is your family patient with the noises coming from your studio?

“My family is very patient with me making noise down there and just me disappearing down there for hours. I mean, during the pandemic, I think everyone was happy if they could find a space where they could get away from other people that they were around 24 hours-a-day. So, maybe one less person up here in the house and down in the basement was good for everyone, giving them some space. I think that it was hard for everyone in some ways and we're super lucky where we live, that we live near some nature we can go out and walk the dogs in the woods and get out in that way. And I feel lucky to have this time spent with our family really… But that doesn't mean that there's not a lot of mental stress and downsides for everyone. And of course, the world at-large has just lost so much over the last couple of years. It's hard to really say there's a silver lining.”

Mac McCaughan's new solo record is called “The Sound Of Yourself.”

It's available now wherever you get your music.

Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
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